Friday, 1 October 2010

Kingdom’s bourse gets New York nod

via CAAI

Thursday, 30 September 2010 21:41 Luke Hunt

SENIOR international investment figures have lauded the prospect of Cambodia establishing its own stock exchange but warned authorities to enforce appropriate regulations and not to repeat the previous mistakes of bourses elsewhere.

Speaking at a conference in Malaysia that focused on alternative investments, analysts forecast a tough two years as the world emerged from the global financial crisis, after which economies would still be dominated by a period of low growth and low interest rates that would restrict returns on bonds, cash and traditional equities.

“Some investments in Asia are already a little overpriced but over the long term in Asia you can’t go wrong,” said Georges Ugeux, former executive vice president of the New York Stock Exchange.

“Don’t try and re-invent the wheel ... build a structure that’s close to other markets so liquidity comes naturally.”

He said that if US dollars and Cambodian riels were used in the exchange, given the dual currency system within the broader economy, it would “reduce one of the great risks confronting the markets – currency fluctuations”.

A recurring issue brought up among experts was the need for disclosure laws. Uguex together with Supachai Panitchpakdi, secretary general of the United Nations Conference of Trade and
Development, said without proper oversight Cambodia’s tiny pool of potential investors would be left to trade among themselves.

“You can’t get outside capital unless you have disclosure. You have to be very clean; otherwise, investors simply will not trust you,” Ugeux said. He urged Cambodian leaders to follow the Chinese model in opening up business accounts.

As a former director general of the World Trade Organisation and deputy prime minister of Thailand, who successfully steered his country through the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis, Supachai has witnessed changing economic patterns over decades.

He was also an instigator of Thai foreign policy when Cambodia began its transition to a peacetime economy more than a decade ago.

“We have helped Cambodia a lot over the years, and I think they’re doing well,” he said.

“I laud the idea of a stock market. It will be a very good thing for them to have.” But he warned against the excessive hype and speculation that led to spectacular crashes on the Thai stock market as far back as 20 and 30 years ago, when the country “didn’t have the right kind of governance”.

“What’s needed is oversight, adequate companies and adequate finance laws,” Supachai said.

His sentiments were echoed by another senior Asian bureaucrat, Jalilah Baba, director general of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority. His group is responsible for approving incoming and outgoing investments.

“We see Cambodia as a country that is coming up and we should have a presence there. If we’re comfortable, we will go there,” she said.

While disclosure concerns topped investor priorities, others were less concerned about the running of a potential exchange or index-linked investments that might prove attractive to fund managers, and were more interested in the type of company that would list.

Financial author and investor Mary Buffett said her former father-in-law, Warren Buffet – among the world’s wealthiest individuals – would be interested in buying stakes in Cambodian companies.

She said Buffett-type investors would look for what she called “toll companies”.

These are companies with an earnings history, command brand loyalty with long-term prospects and are run by honest and competent people. Such companies include banks, publishing houses, telcos and insurance agencies.

Resources type stocks like oil and gas, gold or bauxite were not on the agenda, she said.

“One problem is the companies do not have a history of earnings, which is something that Warren looks at very closely,” she said. “But in time, they will. [Then] from his perspective he’ll will go there ... so why not Cambodia.”

Despite numerous delays, many believe that a Cambodian stock exchange is inevitable. The government has vowed to launch the bourse by next July “at any cost”.

Officials from the Korean exchange – which owns 45 percent of the planned bourse – have warned initially it would have “basic” features.

Laos’ Xayabury dam impact potentially ‘catastrophic’

via CAAI

Thursday, 30 September 2010 22:09 Will Baxter and Cheang Sokha

A hydropower dam proposed for Laos’ northern Xayabury province could have serious negative effects on fisheries, biodiversity and livelihoods downstream in Cambodia, a spokesman for the World Wide Fund for Nature has said.

“Cambodia will be one of the hardest hit countries from the construction of any, including Xayabury, of the proposed 11 lower Mekong mainstream dams,” said Marc Goichot, a senior adviser on sustainable infrastructure at WWF Greater Mekong.

“These impacts are potentially catastrophic, and can include riverbank erosion, impacting the riverside homes of millions of Cambodians.”

Laos notified the Mekong River Commission of its plan for the 1,260-megawatt dam on September 22.

Goichot’s assessment was far bleaker than that of Pich Dun, secretary general of the Cambodian National Mekong Committee, who acknowledged that the dam would “affect fish migration, but not very seriously”.

“According to the study, the dam is being built far from Cambodia, so only some kinds of fish are migrating from here to there, and that is why the effects will not be so huge,” Pich Dun said.

“But if all 11 dams are built, the people on the lower Mekong will face difficulties with the change in the flow of sediments to their crops,” he said.

But Goichot said the dam would “lead to the extinction of the Mekong giant catfish in the wild and probably other fish species”.

Sam Nouv, deputy director for the Fisheries Administration, said he, too, was “concerned” about the dam. “When a dam is built on the upstream, it really impacts the fisheries in Cambodia,” he said. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SAM RITH

Justice still scarce for acid-attack victims

via CAAI

Thursday, 30 September 2010 22:05 Mom Kunthear and Brooke Lewis

WHAT would you like to see happen to your attackers?” a judge asks a young man and woman who were recently doused with acid while innocently enjoying a stroll.

“I want to see them jailed for life,” the woman says.

Her response elicits a chorus of cheers, applause and laughter from an audience made up largely of acid burn victims and their families, who had gathered for an improvised play on acid attacks staged at the Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity in Kandal province.

The play, performed by acid burn victims and CASC staffers, was part of the charity’s bimonthly meeting, a three-day affair that will conclude Friday.

Its story, of an acid-attack perpetrator being brought to justice, is one that those in attendance hope will become a common reality with the introduction of a new draft law that is expected to be finalised soon.

In the play, a female perpetrator is found to have masterminded the attack on the young couple, and the judge orders her to pay US$20,000 in compensation to each of the victims. She is also sentenced to 73 years in prison.

Keo Sreyvy, a 37-year-old acid burn victim who played the perpetrator, said she believed there would be fewer attacks if such sentences were the norm.

“There would not be so many victims if the law punished the perpetrators for what they did, like what we showed in the end of the play,” she said.

Her own case underscores the fact that, at present, many attackers are not punished at all.

In early 2009, she said, her brother-in-law poured a litre of acid over her head and body after she accused him of trafficking his own daughter. Keo Sreyvy was blinded in her left eye by the attack, which also left her with serious burns to her face, torso and left hand.

She said that although she was able to identify her attacker, police told her they did not have enough evidence to make an arrest.

“I filed a complaint to the court nearly two years ago, but the court has not found justice for me yet,” she said. “I feel disappointed with the police and also the courts. I don’t believe in the law anymore.”

In mid-September, Ouk Kimlek, undersecretary of state at the Interior Ministry and deputy director of a committee tasked with drafting legislation to curb acid violence, said a draft would be finalised by the end of the month. On Thursday, he said the draft had not been finished because the committee had been “so busy with other work”.

“We will try to send it to the [Interior Minister Sar Kheng] early in October,” he said.

The committee was formed in February following a spate of reported attacks that began late last year.

Members originally said they expected to finalise the legislation shortly after Khmer New Year.

Early drafts of the law called for harsh punishments for perpetrators of acid crimes, including life sentences for the most serious attacks, a provision that Ouk Kimlek said yesterday remained in the latest version of the law.

Kou Bora, a member of the Interior Ministry’s Legislation Council, visited CASC Thursday to speak with victims and staff about the draft. He said that although the legislation did have a significant punitive component, its primary focus was on preventative measures, such as the regulation of acid sales.

“The most important point that we focused on is prevention more than punishment, because [punishments] are included under the criminal law,” he said.

He said increased legal assistance for victims was also a government priority.

“We have planned to provide free legal aid to acid victims,” he said, but added that he was not sure when the service would become available.

United Kingdom Ambassador Andrew Mace, who also attended Thursday’s meeting at CASC, said he was optimistic that the new law would be a “very important contribution” to the effort to curb acid attacks, but noted that increased awareness and understanding of the issue would also be essential.

“There’s a very wide range of issues to cover, and it’s a very complex issue that cannot be dealt with just through a piece of law,” he said. “I think proper understanding of what leads to the attacks in the first place would be helpful in understanding how Cambodian society can prevent the attacks.”

He said the discussions and performances that took place at the CASC meeting were good examples of the sort of awareness-raising that could help prevent future attacks.

“I’m not sure that people who carry out these attacks always appreciate the real consequences, and I think that it’s very powerful, the sort of thing we’ve seen today,” he said. “People telling their stories – that can help to change attitudes.”

CASC has recorded 18 attacks involving 32 victims – plus four burn victims who were injured in accidents rather than attacks – so far this year. Last year, CASC recorded a total of 28 attacks and 33 victims.

Second US indictment implicates ‘dozens’

via CAAI

Thursday, 30 September 2010 21:53 Chhay Channyda and Keeley Smith

An investigation into a scam involving attempts to secure legal permanent residence in the United States for Cambodians by staging fake marriages has led to a second indictment, according to US media reports.

A Fox News affiliate based in the US state of Kentucky reported that the second indictment implicated “dozens of people”.

In April, a 25-year-old American man pleaded guilty to charges of marriage fraud and conspiracy to commit marriage fraud in connection with the scam.

The US Department of Justice had alleged that the man was one figure in a “large-scale marriage-fraud ring” that involved US citizens travelling to Cambodia and engaging in “fraudulent marriages”.

The defendants have been accused of staging photos with their Cambodian fiancées at tourist locations throughout Cambodia in order to create the illusion of a long-term relationship.

The Kentucky-based Louisville Courier-Journal reported in April that those arrested were recruited and bribed US$1,000 to $5,000 to enter into engagements with Cambodians, and then paid matching amounts after marriages were finalised in the US. The same reported noted that 23 people had been arrested in the case.

The Fox affiliate reported this week that the defendants face up to 75 years behind bars.

Bith Kimhong, director of the Ministry of Interior’s anti-human trafficking and juvenile protection bureau, declined to comment on the case beyond saying that it was “old”.

He said that “no new cases of fake marriage” had since been reported in Cambodia.

Funcinpec HQ on the block

via CAAI

Written by Vong Sokheng
Thursday, 30 September 2010 21:28

Funcinpec plans to sell its party headquarters on Norodom Boulevard, party officials have said, as the planned merger with the Nationalist Party moves a step closer.

Lu Laysreng, the party’s deputy president, confirmed yesterday that the party had put the building on the market, and was hoping to net around US$4 million in the sale.

“We will sell it if there is a profit, and in case we cannot find new headquarters, we will go to work at a pagoda,” he said.

Funcinpec President Keo Puth Reaksmey said that the planned merger of Funcinpec and the NP – which split acrimoniously in 2006 – would happen in time for the 2012 commune elections and 2013 national elections. When it did, he said, the party would require a larger headquarters, and leaders are hoping to find a new site on the outskirts of the city.

Court to question two in DARPO case

via CAAI

Written by Thet Sambath
Friday, 01 October 2010 15:01

TWO residents of Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district will appear for questioning at the provincial court today in connection with a case involving an NGO accused of human rights abuses, their lawyer said yesterday.

Long Lun said 50-year-old Khin Khon and her husband, 48-year-old Chib Rath, had travelled from Phnom Penh to Preah Vihear yesterday after receiving summonses from provincial court prosecutor Keo Sim last week.

“I will ask the court to find justice for my clients and demand that the real criminals be accused and arrested,” he said.

Both villagers were among a group of 10 representatives of families in Choam Ksan district who have called for an investigation into the Drugs and AIDS Research and Prevention Organisation, an NGO run by a one-star general who is also an adviser to Senate President Chea Sim.

DARPO was granted a 556-hectare social land concession in the district in 2007.

At a press conference in Phnom Penh on September 6, Khin Khon accused a security guard working for DARPO of raping her 13-year-old daughter, and said unidentified men threatened and beat her after she filed a complaint.

Choam Ksan residents have also accused DARPO of torture and unlawful forced eviction. The NGO has denied any wrongdoing.

Three villagers questioned at the provincial court last month were charged with incitement, disinformation and forgery after a judge said they had falsified complaints against DARPO. Two remain behind bars.

Thailand mulls new migrant registration

vis CAAI

Friday, 01 October 2010 15:01 James O’Toole and Sam Rith

THE Thai government is considering reopening a registration process for migrant labourers that could allow tens of thousands of Cambodian workers currently at risk of deportation to remain in Thailand legally, officials said yesterday.

Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said yesterday that because of the “backlog” of workers who missed the deadline for the registration process, Thailand’s ministry of labour was considering reopening it.

“The ministry is working on that, but the cabinet has not yet received a formal proposal on the issue,” Panitan said.

The Thai government set a February deadline for migrant workers to apply for a process known as “nationality verification” that would allow them to renew their work permits. Though 124,902 legal Cambodian migrant workers were eligible to participate in this registration process, just 81,601 took part, according to figures provided by Bangkok-based rights group the Human Rights and Development Foundation.

As a consequence, 43,301 Cambodian migrants who were legally registered prior to the deadline faced the possibility of deportation, as did the untold thousands of Cambodian workers who entered Thailand illegally.

More than 1,000 Cambodian workers who missed the registration deadline had been arrested and detained by the end of June, after Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva authorised a crackdown in a June 2 directive.

Last week, Thai Minister of Labour Chalermchai Sri-on said the government was preparing to reopen the registration process because of a labour shortage, Thai state media reported.

Othsman Hassan, secretary of state at the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training, said he had travelled to Thailand earlier this week to confer with Thai labour ministry officials on the process of registering Cambodian workers.

“So far, over 80,000 Cambodian workers have already registered, and we estimate that there are still over 90,000 Cambodian workers who have not yet registered” he said.

Othsman Hassan said Thai officials had requested that the Cambodian government assist in registering more Cambodian workers.

“Due to Thailand’s increasing development, they are open to having more Cambodian workers,” he said.

Critics of Thailand’s registration policy said it was instituted unnecessarily swiftly and left no recourse for migrant workers who had entered the country illegally.

“It is addressing regular migrants and leaves out the irregular migrants, and that is something that represents a threat of massive expulsions, with the obvious consequences of violations of human rights. That’s a great concern to me,” Jorge Bustamente, the UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, said in an interview with Radio Australia in February.

As Thai labour officials move forward with their review of migrant policy, they must develop a framework that is “in unison with the genuine situation on the ground”, said Andy Hall, director of the HRDF’s Migrant Justice Programme.

In a statement released yesterday, a group of 13 civil society organisations based in Thailand called for Thai authorities to raise awareness among migrant workers about the registration process and allow children and other dependants of workers to be registered as well.

Fire compensation planned

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Firefighters work to extinguish a burning tanker truck last week. Officials in Prampi Makara district have begun meeting with residents to determine compensation.

Written by Kim Yuthana
Friday, 01 October 2010 15:01

OFFICIALS in the capital’s Prampi Makara district have organised meetings with local residents to determine compensation for those whose property was destroyed in a tanker fire last week.

The blaze broke out in Prampi Makara’s Veal Vong commune when a Sokimex fuel truck carrying roughly 8,000 litres of petrol exploded near the Socheat garage. 43-year-old Pou Cheng, the owner of the garage, met on Wednesday with residents and district officials to negotiate compensation offers, Prampi Makara district governor Som Sovann said.

Victims began submitting claims to district officials in relation to the fire last week.

“All cases cannot be solved at the same time because the situation is complicated, so we need to work step by step,” Som Sovann said. He declined to saw how many residents had submitted claims, though four families had done so as of Thursday last week.

In addition to those for homes, claims were filed for an SUV, motorbikes and cyclos that were damaged in the blaze, Som Sovann said.

Pou Cheng’s wife, 49-year-old Nuth Samoeun, was charged with arson last week in connection with the explosion of the fuel truck, which destroyed five homes and sent a plume of black smoke rising over the city. The driver of the truck has also been charged, though he fled the scene after the explosion and remains on the run.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Te Sam Ang said he would examine the complaints and compensation process as he evaluated Nuth Samoeun’s case.

Chea Theit, a 52-year-old resident of Veal Vong commune, claimed to have lost roughly US$220,000 worth of property in the fire, including his home. “I want them to compensate me for the rebuilding of my house,” he said.

CTN journalist summoned

via CAAI

Friday, 01 October 2010 15:01 May Titthara

A JOURNALIST for Cambodia Television Network said yesterday that he had been summoned by the Banteay Meanchey provincial court on suspicion of spreading disinformation for his coverage of a land dispute.

Soush Saroeun, executive managing director of the ARP-OITC Group, which filed the complaint, said CTN’s coverage of the dispute had been unfairly biased against his firm.

“Our lawyer filed a complaint against them because we bought the land from villagers and allowed them to plant rice on our land, but [CTN] looked down on us,” Soush Saroeun said.


The complaint is strange because they did not ask us for a correction, but filed... directly to the court.


Banteay Meanchey provincial prosecutor So Rath said the complaint alleged that CTN’s Lai Ly had affected the “honour” of ARP-OITC with its report on the land dispute in Banteay Meanchey’s Phnom Srok district.

Lai Ly has been ordered to appear at the provincial court on October 11.

Soush Saran said the conflict had emerged over 7 hectares of land out of 100 hectares his firm purchased in 2008. The 7 hectares, he said, are also claimed by Lay Saran, the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces deputy commander in Phnom Srok district.

Lay Saran could not be reached for comment. Lai Ly said yesterday that he had yet to receive the summons.

The report in question, which appeared on CTN’s website, was balanced and included comments from all parties concerned, he added.
“I respected the professional code of ethics, so I am not worried,” he said.

CTN news director Huy Vannak said the complaint had failed to make specific allegations about the report.

“The complaint is strange because they did not ask us for a correction, but filed the complaint directly to the court,” he said.

Um Sarin, president of the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists, said that if the court chooses to bring charges against Lai Ly or CTN, it should bring them under the Kingdom’s 1995 Press Law, rather than utilising criminal defamation or disinformation charges.

In a report released last month, Surya Subedi, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, recommended that defamation and disinformation be decriminalised.

“The law regarding defamation and disinformation has been used selectively and in a biased manner against journalists, human rights activists and political leaders, and the courts do not seem to interpret the law and the restrictions on freedom of expression according to domestic laws, much less international standards binding Cambodia,” Subedi wrote.

Garment factories: Workers reinstated after PM call

via CAAI

Friday, 01 October 2010 15:01 Mom Kunthear

Garment factories

A GARMENT factory in Kampong Speu province yesterday gave 22 suspended employees permission to return to work in response to an appeal from Prime Minister Hun Sen, a union leader said.

In a speech on Wednesday, Hun Sen urged factory owners to reinstate workers who were suspended after participating in a large-scale strike last month.

Kin Im, a union representative at the Sangwoo factory, said he had received a letter from the factory owner yesterday instructing him and 21 other suspended union members to return to work today.

“I am very happy to return to work,” he said.

State must provide better access for disabled people

via CAAI

Friday, 01 October 2010 15:01 Wayne Slattery

Dear Editor,

I went past the Canadia Tower and was appalled to see that at the two main entrances, access was via a set of stairs without a ramp or handrail to be seen.

How can this be allowed to happen? This is supposedly the premier office building in Cambodia. Does Canadia Bank and its other tenants have no interest in disabled persons?

I am amazed at new hotels and other buildings being built without any consideration for access – there only needs to be one ramp and/or one set of steps with a handrail.

The government is making big strides in advancing the cause of disabled persons with the National Law on Disability and the recent quota system of minimum levels of employment for disabled persons. However, building access standards seem to be lacking.

I am a person of advancing age who has a disability. I had polio as a child and now wear a brace on one leg. I get around by being careful and using a walking stick, and am enjoying myself here while working as a volunteer.

But all these steps – at commercial, NGO and government buildings.

Not only do they have steps (from two to too many), but they do not have handrails; for many physically disabled persons, a handrail would help them up and down steps that would be otherwise insurmountable.

Don’t even mention ramps for wheelchairs. The number I have seen can be counted on two hands.

Ramps are vital for people in wheelchairs and invaluable for less mobile people carrying items, persons using walking sticks etc.

In my home country, things are not perfect, but new buildings and government buildings are expected to provide access to all members of the community.

I call on the various disability groups to band together and convince the relevant government authorities to enforce a code of practice requiring new buildings to adhere to this rule.

Cambodia has a high number of disabled persons, and with the growth of tourism is attracting higher numbers of older tourists, some of whom have mobility problems. Cambodia has a young population, but it will age and some will become more disabled. The time to act is now.

Tourists vote with their wallets and their feet, however unsteady they may be. I have reached a point where, if I need to buy something, stay somewhere or buy a service, I look for the one with better access, even if it is more expensive.

Again I call on the National Centre for Disabled Persons, Cambodian Disabled Persons Organisation, Association of Blind Persons, Disability Action Council, Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation, and the many other disability organisations to begin a public campaign to improve access for everyone in Cambodia.

Wayne Slattery
Phnom Penh

Send letters to: or PO?Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length. The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

Police Blotter: 1 Oct 2010

via CAAI

Friday, 01 October 2010 15:01 Sen David

Student borrows bike from friend and sells it
A 19-year-old student was arrested after stealing his friend’s bike and selling it in Kandal province’s Takhmao town on Tuesday. The victim said he lent the bike to his friend while he was studying because his friend needed to run some errands. However, days passed and the suspect failed to return the bike. The suspect was eventually arrested, and he confessed to selling the bike.

Unloved prisoner dies from heart attack in jail
An inmate died from a suspected heart attack in Preah Sihanouk provincial prison on Monday, but his body has not been claimed by relatives because his family reportedly hated him. A prison official said that the inmate fainted and was sent to hospital. Doctors there said a heart attack caused him to collapse, and he was pronounced dead on arrival. The corpse has since been sent to a local pagoda by prison officials because the family refused to pick it up. A prison official said the family “hated him so much”.

Man refuses pal money for booze, gets knifed
A man was stabbed after he refused to give money to a drunk friend who wanted to buy more booze in Kampong Thom province’s Prasat Balaing district on Tuesday. Police said the suspect was always drunk. On the day in question, the suspect asked to borrow 10,000 riels (US$2.50) so he could buy cheap wine and continue drinking. The victim did not comply with the request, so the suspect allegedly stabbed him. He has been taken to hospital, and the suspect has been arrested.

Police stop drug sale between friends
Police arrested a man as he attempted to deliver drugs to the house of a friend in Banteay Meanchey province’s Serei Sophoan district on Tuesday. A neighbour had earlier approached police expressing concern that the man was at the centre of illicit deals in his village. When they arrested the suspect, police confiscated 10 bags of narcotics that he was in the process of depositing on the doorstep of a friend. Police said the friend escaped before police made it to his house. They are now on the hunt for him, and the arrested suspect has been sent to court for questioning.

Child-rape charge laid

via CAAI

Friday, 01 October 2010 15:01 Chhay Channyda

KAMPONG Chhnang provincial court has charged a 70-year-old man with raping a 4-year-old girl on four separate occasions at his home in Boribo district, officials said yesterday. Prak Sao Ny, the provincial anti-human trafficking police chief, said yesterday that police had arrested the suspect, Srey Maing, on Tuesday at his home and held him overnight after the alleged victim’s parents filed a complaint against him. He was sent to the court and charged on Wednesday. Prak Sao Ny said that after the first attack, the girl reported it to her mother, but that her mother did not believe her, thinking Srey Maing was a good neighbour. The mother only took the girl’s claims seriously after she caught Srey Maing trying to rape her, Prak Sao Ny said. Prosecutor Penh Vibol said Srey Maing had been charged under the Law on Aggravating Circumstances for Felonies and faces 15 to 20 years in prison if guilty.

Investment set for recovery

Construction proceeds at full tilt earlier this year on the US$280 million, 180-megawatt Kamchay hydro-power dam project being built with Chinese investment from Sinohydro Corporation. Photo by: David Boyle

via CAAI

Friday, 01 October 2010 15:01 Nguon Sovan and Jeremy Mullins

THE Council for the Development of Cambodia forecast yesterday that approved foreign investment in the Kingdom would drop 27 percent this year, compared to 2009, but was set to make a gradual recovery.

In a presentation given at Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich Island yesterday, Council for the Development of Cambodia’s investment board deputy secretary general Duy Thouv forecast projects worth $4.25 billion would be approved this year.

The fall would be the second year that approved Foreign Direct Investment has plummeted. In 2008, FDI hit a massive US$10.891 billion but fell 46 percent to $5.859 billion in 2009.

The CDC has predicted that after this year, approvals would gradually improve, to $4.46 billion in 2011, $5.8 billion in 2012 and $6.96 billion in 2013.

Despite the figures, officials remained positive about the Kingdom’s economy.

The 27 percent decline was not an indication of weakness, Duy Thouv said yesterday.

Instead, he said, 2009 had been a strong year, despite the global financial crisis.

“Of course the economy was hit by the crisis, but foreign direct investment was still high because of a sharp increase [in approvals] from Vietnam and China,” he said.

“Investment this year will be lower since there was no similar rush.”

Growth in FDI would stem from both internal and external factors, he said, highlighting a new rice policy boosting exports and the prospect of oil and gas production in 2012.

Special Economic Zones would also be established to attract additional businesses, he said.

The Kingdom has approved 21 SEZs. Of those, four are in operation, and two are being built, according to Duy Thouv’s presentation.

As of 2009, Cambodia had attracted more than $488 million worth of investment in the areas.

Economic experts also emphasised the importance of counting the impact of approved investment in real terms.

Chan Sophal, president of Cambodian Economic Association, said it was important to note the data registered only investment plans, and that many projects had never been implemented. There had been “huge investment figures” particularly in 2008, he said; however, some of the approved projects had never materialised.

“What we want to see is more implementation, more injection of capital on to those investment projects, not just papers showing approvals,” he said.

He said Cambodia had done well to attract investment, but that more could be done especially improving laws and regulations as well as easing restrictions inhibiting imports and exports.

Bretton Sciaroni, senior partner at Sciaroni and Associates, said that approved-investment data, although useful, did not make clear how much of the investments were actually made.

While Joshua Morris, managing director at Emerging Market Investments, echoed statements that figures could be misleading. Investors were becoming more critical when choosing potential projects, he warned.

“Foreign investment looking at the market now is more stable, more critical, with an eye to long-term goals,” he said. “Previously I think there were somewhat euphoric expectations of Cambodia.”


Work on $5 billion tourism project begins

via CAAI

Friday, 01 October 2010 15:01 Soeun Say

CONSTRUCTION has begun at a much-touted US$5 billion Chinese tourism development project in Koh Kong, according to government officials.

Sun Dara, deputy governor of Koh Kong province, said yesterday that the Chinese Union Development Group Co, which saw its investment approved by the government in early 2009, began building last month.

The project, which covers 36,000 hectares of land in Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts, consists of five developments, including an airport, a port, a golf course, an eco-tourism site and a large commercial area with residential living, hotels, restaurants and retail stores.

“They have started building a port and roads, and they are preparing the infrastructure to build a residential building and office building in Kiri Sakor district,” Sun Dara said.

“We are very happy that they are investing in the tourism sector. It will create more jobs for the locals and boost the provincial economy.”

Lao Tip Seiha, Ministry of Land Management construction department director, said the technical plans for the residential and office buildings were still pending construction approval, which would come “as soon as possible”. A land dispute surrounding the project, officials said, was close to being resolved.

Cheng Che, governor of Kiri Sakor district, said yesterday that in Kiri Sakor district, seven villages with 600 families were affected by the development but that the company was close to resolving compensation.

“There are more than 20 families [for whom compensation for their land] is still unresolved because they are asking for higher costs following market prices,” he said.

Union Development Group managing director, Ji Jian Hua, could not be reached for comment, and the head of marketing, Wang Chao, declined to confirm any information.

Sun Dara said the company had allowed for up to 25 years for the development’s completion, but he doubted it would take that long.

Mill owners to share European experience

via CAAI

Friday, 01 October 2010 15:01 Chun Sophal

GOVERNMENT officials and representatives from the rice mills will meet today in order to share their experiences of exporting rice to Europe.

Thun Vireak, manager of the state-run Green Trade Company, said yesterday that the group would meet at the Ministry of Commerce in order to raise concerns and discuss their experiences of operating in the eurozone.

“The main purpose of our meeting today is to advertise what the European market needs in order to help local rice traders form a base for export there,” Thun Vireak said.

The meeting follows a trip made by eight rice mill owners earlier this month to Belgium, France, Poland, the Netherlands and Germany to meet with middlemen, traders and rice processors.

Thun Vireak said the mill owners would share what they had learned.

Ny Ly Heng, deputy director of Baitang Kampuchea, said that the sharing of information would help strengthen rice exports in the future.

“We need an appropriate period of time to get our rice known,” he said.

Last September, the EU provided rice tax preferences to least-developed countries.

Elections: Association of hotels in shakeup

via CAAI

Friday, 01 October 2010 15:01 Peter Olszewski

THE Cambodia Hotel Association is undergoing a restructure following a decision by newly elected Siem Reap office bearers to dispense with a “gentleman’s agreement” regarding its national presidency.

The industry lobby group was formed in June 2005 by the merging of two associations – the Phnom Penh Hotels Association and the Siem Reap Hotels and Guest House Association. A subsequent informal agreement stated that the presidency would alternate between cities after elections every two years.

Last week, Sokha Angkor Resort’s general manager Emmett McHenry was voted as president of the association’s Siem Reap chapter.

In normal circumstances this would mean he would automatically become the national president, replacing the Phnom Penh’s Luu Meng, owner of the Almond Hotel.

But following his election, Mr McHenry said that he would not seek the national presidency. Instead he threw support behind Luu Meng to re-elect him as president for a second term.

McHenry said: “It’s much more practical for the association to be run from Phnom Penh where the ministry offices and infrastructure are.”

Luu Meng said he endorsed the Siem Reap move, and added that this would also help the association expand into Sihanoukville and boost the current national membership of 40 hotels.

Work in Phnom Penh can be risky business

via CAAI

via CAAI

Friday, 01 October 2010 15:00 Steve Finch

THE ongoing rift within the garment industry serves as a reminder that Cambodia remains an unstable destination for employers, as shown by Phnom Penh’s dismal second-to-last ranking in this week’s employers’ survey by insurance giant Aon.

The Kingdom may have advanced by leaps and bounds in the past two decades in terms of security, but major risk assessors such as Aon are still advising firms to stay away from Phnom Penh – illustrating that the government has considerable work to do to make sure foreign investors feel confident enough to move here.

Aon’s assessment, in a survey of 90 world cities, that the capital remains more risky than the likes of Karachi in Pakistan and Lagos in Nigeria for employment and recruitment is worrying.

The report suggests that foreign firms continue to shun high-risk environments, such as Cambodia because of high crime rates, unpredictable government economic policy and a largely unskilled workforce.

“All of these people risk factors increase costs, sometimes in areas that are not typically associated with personnel cost,” it said.

With a limited pool of highly-trained people in the workforce, options for recruitment remain limited in Cambodia and training costs high, and a lack of adequate healthcare means benefits become expensive.

Crime remains perhaps the greatest deterrent here, not only because of the scare factor but also because of high security costs. Potential employers looking to the Kingdom have been offered little evidence recently that the situation is improving. Reported crime levels rose 20 percent in the Kingdom last year, but cases actually documented are almost certainly only the tip of the iceberg.

To put things into context, New Zealand – one of the safest countries on the planet with roughly a fourth as many people – recorded around 100 times as many crimes as Cambodia in 2009. But in Aon’s survey, Auckland was ranked 36th and Phnom Penh 89th. Only the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka scored lower.

These are not problems Cambodia can address overnight, as they relate to society itself. Still, the virtuous circle that could encourage more foreign firms to come here needs to be accelerated.

At a government level, policies and institutions need to be more predictable, transparent and authoritative.

For instance, although this week’s creation of a body to try to settle garment protests – composed of government labour and industry unions – represents a positive step, the timing of this initiative is less prevention, and more cure.

The government has implemented the beginnings of a social security and healthcare system for employees, but workers often complain of a lack of knowledge.

This all points to uncertainty and, unfortunately for Cambodia, if there is one thing foreign investors despise it’s overly high risk.

Iron ore deposits: Vietnamese tycoon visits concessions

via CAAI

Friday, 01 October 2010 15:00 Jeremy Mullins

ONE of Vietnam’s richest men has led a delegation of investors to visit iron ore concessions in Cambodia.

Vietnamese firm Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group brought a delegation of 50 investors to visit its operations in the Kingdom, including representatives from Singapore’s state-owned investment arm Temasek Holdings, Manulife Fund, and Sacombank.

The trip was overseen by HAGL’s 55 percent owner Chairman Doan Nguyen Duch – considered by Forbes one of Vietnam’s richest men – a company statement said.

HAGL, which is publicly listed on the Ho Chi Minh exchange, claims to control an estimated 30 million tonnes of estimated iron reserves in Cambodia, along with other construction and rubber businesses in Vietnam and Laos.

Last year, the firm said revenues expected from its iron concessions in Cambodia and Laos would help it boost pretax earnings 57 percent in 2010.

It says that mining along with rubber and hydropower will become the main focus of the firm by 2012.

The delegation of investors travelled to its Cambodian ore concession late last week in a bid to provide “a foundation for potential investors who want to invest in HAGL”, it said in a statement.

Anjali wows London show

This untitled picture of monks was taken at Wat Damnak in 2008, by Pheaktra of Anjali House. Apparently, the monks were playing a song by Celine Dion when she took the photo of them.

via CAAI

Friday, 01 October 2010 15:00 Nicky Hosford

PHOTOGRAPHS taken by former street children from Anjali House formed part of the backdrop for a book launch in London last night.

Projections of the children’s work accompanied author Sue Guiney’s reading of her newly published novel, A Clash of Innocents (Ward Wood Publishing), at the launch at Asia House in fashionable Fitzrovia near Regent’s Park.

Against the shadow of Cambodia’s violent past and the beginnings of its new tribunal, A Clash of Innocents is a story of displaced souls. The author has built the novel on the idea of innocence – both real and assumed – and those who, for reasons of their own, adopt the guilt of others.

According to a review by novelist Fiona Tobyn, the novel is “the heart-warming story of the indomitable Deborah, who runs an orphanage and fights with her own demons as the country struggles to come to terms with its bloody history”.

“Day’s End”, taken by Chan Sokdam, depicts Eang, a daughter of a staff member at Anjali House.
Photo by: Anjali House

Last night’s launch party, which also included a print exhibition of the children’s works, a slideshow, and a fundraising photo sale, also marked the pre-launch activity for Anjali House’s own book, Cambodia: Our Vision; a collection of striking images taken by the former street children of Angkor. The formal launch for that book will take place during the Angkor Photo Festival in November.

Sam Flint, director of Anjali, is very happy with the creation of the new book.

“I’m over the moon,” he said. “It’s really nice to have got things so far. We’ve all been working hard to turn the children’s work into something that’s valued and I think we’re there. Just as importantly, we’re creating real future opportunities for the children, some of whom have already had their own exhibitions.”

Anjali House is a shelter for street children in Siem Reap that provides education and health care, linked with a strong emphasis on creative expression.

The organisation was founded out of the Angkor Photo Festival, and has maintained links with photographers from all over the world who come to work with and train the children.

Postcards showing the children’s work have been available in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh for almost one year and sales have been strong, officials say.

Man About Town 01-09-2010

via CAAI

Friday, 01 October 2010 15:00 Peter Olszewski

Lost in transit

CNN may have its Heroes of the Year, but Man About Town nominates its own heroes of the week. Our hero is Laotian Pollen Phengprom, managing director of Pollen Law Consulting and Investment Co Ltd. And the heroine is Ly Sei Hary, ticketing manager of Angkor Amazing Holiday & Tours.

Both were passengers on the scheduled 4pm Cambodian Angkor Air flight from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap on Sunday.

The flight was cancelled due to mechanical problems and the enraged passengers felt they were lost in transit because no meaningful information was provided. But lies flew thick and fast. One ridiculous story was that Hun Sen, who had earlier flown in from New York, had commandeered the plane.

But our dashing duo sprang into action, using connections to ease the plight of passengers.

Laotian lawyer Pollen Phengprom, who had previously worked in the Laotian Prime Minister’s office, obviously had high-level contacts, and was quick to use a cell phone as a weapon of urgent assistance.

Ly Sei Hary had previously worked for the airline and knew after-hours details.

They effectively managed rescue operations, resulting in a woman from the airline arriving to sort out the mess. She ’fessed up that the stranded plane wasn’t going anywhere that night and emergency accommodation was provided at the faded New York Hotel in Phnom Penh.

Passengers were ferried back to the airport at 5.30am on Monday, but again the plane didn’t board on time, and again the passengers had no clue if they were ever going to fly anywhere except off the handle.

Again, Laos saved the day. Pollen Phengprom contacted someone from the airline and instructed them to immediately contact airport staff to make an announcement about progress.

Within five minutes an announcement boomed through the airport that the flight to Siem Reap was delayed due to the late arrival of the aircraft from Ho Chi Minh City. Finally, just after 8am, the flight was airborne with passengers voting the duo as the heroes of the encounter with officials.

Thinking fitness

via CAAI

Friday, 01 October 2010 15:00 Nicky Hosford

GETTING fit just got easier. Until last week, Conchetta Pisani taught Pilates at the Peace Café on Tuesdays and Fridays every week. The only difficulty was that the classes were always during office hours, a fact which prevented many from attending.

That’s changed now, as Conchetta has opened her own Th!nk fitness studio. The specially adapted studio is light and airy, has mirrors down one wall, parquet flooring, air-conditioning, and all of the necessary equipment. Here, Conchetta will be leading classes in Pilates, fit-ball, circuit training and even belly dancing. She hopes to be able to add to the dance options in the near future.

Classes will be scheduled, details of which will become available shortly. People are also free to book their own sessions, either as a group of three or more, or as individuals. Group classes are, as before, $6 an hour.

The new studio is on the left-hand side of National Road 6, the road to the airport, opposite the Ford outlet and near the Total petrol station.

The studio is above the new printing and photo shop, Angkor Photography & Publishing.

For more details, contact Conchetta on 092 956 154.

Memories are made of this

Steve Levitt with a girl with no hands in Siem Reap, 1990.

via CAAI

Friday, 01 October 2010 15:00 Steve Levitt

I AM planning my return to Siem Reap from my small home in Canberra, Australia, rifling through my old passports as an aid to a failing memory. The passports tell me that I have been coming to Cambodia regularly for just over 20 years.

First I came for adventure and stories as a photojournalist. Then as a communications officer with a global aid agency. Then as an uncle with a favoured niece. Now I’ll return as a father with his eldest son.

No other country appears so often in my packed passports, and no place other than Siem Reap has such a hold to keep drawing me back.

Perhaps it is because Cambodia, more than any other country, is never the same place twice, and because Siem Reap seems to change by the minute.

I first came to Cambodia in 1989. Entry into the Kingdom and travel for foreigners was very restricted while the war sputtered throughout the countryside. Siem Reap was off limits to most, but somehow I managed a pass and a ticket.

The plane that took me to Siem Reap from Pochentong was an old Russian Antanov. Inside the plane was standing room only, and as the atheists in the pilot seats launched the plane in a spiraling climb, the air-conditioning filled the cabin with rivulets of steam, while the speakers played Russian ballads extolling the virtue of collaborative farming.

When I landed in Siem Reap I was hustled from the airport by an official driving an old Soviet-style military 4X4. I was whisked to what is now the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, but then it was a much humbler government guest house. It was the only hotel in town, and I was the only guest. The lodging was sparsely furnished. The tiled floor in my room had a large blood stain, and the plumbing did not work. From my balcony, I could see loudspeakers. They barked into discordant life just before sunrise and sunset announcing the beginning and end of the curfew, with a political rant for the workers.

The next day a guide and driver arrived and, despite the heat, both wore immaculately pressed shirts and ties. The car was a shiny, black Russian Zim limousine.

There wasn't much to see in town; a quiet village with some battle-scarred French colonial and Chinese buildings. The forests that led to the gates of Angkor Wat were tall and green, the buildings still overgrown and eerily quiet. I had the entire temple complex to share only with my guide. This would never happen again and I sensed then how privileged I was.

As a journalist I had been at pains to find out what the security situation was here. The guide assured me the government had the area under control. I found this hard to believe since the Khmer Rouge were just outside the airport in Phnom Penh. As we were coming out of Ta Prohm in the slanting afternoon light, a 30-caliber machine gun opened up in short bursts. An AK-47 barked back, and the guide and I had taken cover between stones and tree roots. The shooting stopped after about half an hour and the Zim, with its now very nervous driver, raced back to the hotel.

At night the streets emptied, leaving only the sound of dogs barking. The hotel staff had fled and left me alone. I discovered the inn had been a hospital during the Lon Nol days. Many had died there, and people believed their spirits still haunted the cavernous rooms.

On the second night in Siem Reap I came down with dengue fever, and was sick for three days and nights.

Perhaps the fever burned those images into my mind of my first day in Siem Reap and the overgrown temple complex, so that they resonate in my memory like hand-painted photos that fade to sepia. Memories of bullet-holed buildings, truckloads of fighters resting in hammocks strung between sugar palms along Highway 6, the waiter unused to wearing shoes.

Over the next 20 years I watched Siem Reap change. During the election, movie stars, models and celebrity journalists from the Asian wars came for the last hurrah to chaos before peace ruined their party. Hotels began to pop up along dusty lanes, and the road to democracy was emerging as a curved path. The French Foreign Legion came and went, as did the Democratic Kampuchea and the Minefield Bar, its Rambo owner and his pet python Gorbachev.

Each of my subsequent visits became a series of still frames. In my mind they all come together like a stop-motion movie where forests and mines are cleared in a flash, buildings spring like mushrooms from dusty rice paddies, cyclists, cycles and buffalo-drawn wagons morph instantly into motorbikes and silver conga lines of tourist buses.

In my mind, the nascent city springs from the village of Siem Reap like a brightly coloured phoenix calling for my return.

Boeng Kak Lake Residents" Protest Prevented

From the Killing Fields to the Sharing Foundation

via CAAI

One man's life-changing encounter with Dr. Nancy Hendrie.

By Betsy Levinson
Dr. Nancy Hendrie helped Elephant turn his life around in Cambodia. Credit Betsy Levinson
Rotary President Ann Trudeau introduces speaker Elephant from Cambodia. Credit Betsy Levinson
 The man everyone calls Elephant couldn't help but choke back his emotions as he remembered his life in Cambodia under the Khymer Rouge.

The soft-spoken neatly dressed man spoke to the Concord Rotary about the day he and his then five-year-old brother were scrounging for food in the fields of Cambodia in 1976, when soldiers from the ruling Khymer Rouge found them stealing some corn. They shot and killed his brother as he stood by, cowering.

But now, Chan Kim Leng, or Elephant as he is known to friends and family, is dressed in a khaki suit and telling his story of salvation, from working the streets of Phnom Penh as a cycle-cab driver to becoming a bi-lingual director of a foundation started by Concord pediatrician, Dr. Nancy Hendrie.

The Rotary Club supports the Sharing Foundation and its farm, clinic and school that Hendrie founded 13 years ago after 26 years as a well loved doctor to children from area towns.

Hendrie said the foundation has 1,500 children now at the various facilities. The foundation started small, with an orphanage for the "discarded" children, she said, in Cambodia who had birth defects or HIV.

She said 130 now pour into the foundation's farm school where learning English is mandatory for learning farming skills.

"The Rotary ran the farm school last year," said Hendrie.

Elephant, or Chan Kim Leng, said his youth was spent starving in poverty.

"I had nothing to eat," he said. "I ate twigs, spiders, flies, crickets." His parents were illiterate, eking out a living on a farm until the Communist soldiers of the Khymer Rouge turned the lush countryside into the now-infamous killing fields.

By 1988, Elephant said he had no health care, and no school to go to. But he heard that there were jobs in Phnom Penh, so he set out for the city to make a living. He noticed other young men in boats or on pedicabs ferrying people around the city for a few dollars.

"I saw there was more profit with foreigners, and I started to dream about buying a taxi, but I had no money," he said.

Eventually, he saved enough to buy a taxi, and started attending high school at night. His family "was still in the jungle."

In 1997, Elephant was a taxi driver who earned a living by driving adoptive parents to agencies to meet the children they would soon adopt. His luck changed one October day in 1999 when Hendrie asked him to drive her "for one trip" to where she needed to go in the city.

Hendrie was setting up her orphanage offering free medical care for HIV and disabled children "and needed my help," Elephant said. He said he followed her around, taking notes as her assistant.

"She gave me a job as a driver," he said. In 2001 he started attending college studying project management.

"I thought education can change my life," said Elephant.

Now he directs the orphanage which used to house 40 HIV infected and disabled children, and which now has 75.

"The foundation is my life," he said. He is fluent now in English and French.

"I thought, I have succeeded," he said.

He said nine students have finished college this year, and all have found jobs. Eight finished last year.

"This is my dream," said Elephant."

He has four children now, and his wife is learning English. She designs crafts that are sold through the Sharing Foundation.

He named his first child "Lucky," another one "Dollar," and the youngest one "Water Buffalo" because he feels the boy eats so much.

Elephant is accustomed to privation, and has trouble adjusting to modern Cambodian life.

"He eats a lot," he said. "I'm used to no food."

Oh, and the reason for his name?

"When I started as a cyclo-man at a hotel in Phnom Penh, I was not a big man," he said. "I was skinny. The other drivers took away all my customers."

"It was hard to earn money, so I went to a gym and studied kickboxing for two years. I learned English and French. No one could take my customers away anymore," he said.

Now they all call him Elephant.

State Department says Cambodia has ability to pay off US debt

via CAAI

By: The Associated Press
Posted: 30/09/2010

WASHINGTON - The State Department says that cancelling Cambodia's debt would set a bad example because the impoverished country has the ability to pay what it owes the United States.

Joseph Yun, a deputy assistant secretary of state, said Thursday at a congressional hearing that even as Cambodia has accumulated debt with the United States, it has paid off other creditors on time.

Yun says the debt stems from low-interest loans in the 1970s for U.S. agricultural commodities. He says it was about $445 million by the end of 2009.

Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, chairman of the House of Representatives Asia subcommittee, says other countries have cancelled debt for Cambodia, while the United States insists on "squeezing this little, least developed country."